Bad Santa (2003)
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Review Date: November 18, 2003
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Writer: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Producers: Sarah Aubrey, John Cameron
Billy Bob Thornton
Tony Cox
Bernie Mac
A drunken, foul-mouthed holiday Santa Claus and his midget elf friend team up every year to rob a new shopping mall of its goodies on Christmas Eve. This year, they hit a small town and despite regurgitating his usual bad habits of drinking and screwing everyone in sight, Santa also meets a nice bartender chick as well as a cute, pudgy kid with whom he slowly, and quite unsurely, connects. F-bombs ensue...
Does the idea of a half-shaven Billy Bob Thornton dressed up as Santa Claus, swearing like nobody's business and drinking like it was going out of style, sound funny to you? If not, I would tell you to skip this film entirely because that concept is pretty much this movie's entire basis of humor and if you don't think that tidbit is funny...you're unlikely to appreciate much else about it either. In fact, I can see many people despising this picture. It's not your every day comedy and it's also pretty cruel. I personally liked the concept of a really bad Santie Claus (imagine Harvey Keitel from BAD LIEUTENANT but without the gambling or the cock shots), which is why I enjoyed the film overall, but not without certain reservations. Most notably, the film felt "clunky", like it was missing pieces or needed more development for this part or that character. There wasn't really a story either, as much as it was just "a week in the life" of a really nasty individual who likes to drink, fuck arses and be an all-around jerk, day-in and day-out (pretty much like everyone at the JoBlo.com headquarters) That said, most of his "jerky" behavior was pretty funny, especially his many one-liners and "out of line" statements. At one point, the cute lead kid asks him why he's not in the North Pole anymore (believing that he's the real Santa) and Thornton tells him that it's because he got kicked out after Mrs. Clause caught him fucking her sister. Sweet. Most of it is very sick and depraved stuff too...which is likely what appealed to me.

In fact, if you're already starting to feel a little beaten down by the whole "Christmas thing", this film will likely offer you a number of laughs, as Thornton spreads his pissed-off mood around like holiday jeer. He comes to work drunk off his ass one day and busts up the entire "Meet Santa Clause" village in front of dozens of kids and parents. Funny stuff! He's also suicidal...but in a funny way! Like I said earlier...it's dark, sick humor here, folks. The problem with the film seems to be that they had this "initial funny concept" of a "bad Santa", but didn't have enough solid material to build around it. The presence of John Ritter, Bernie Mac, Cloris Leachman and cutey-pie Lauren Graham are surprisingly wasted (Graham even keeps her bra on during a sex scene...c'man!!), and if it wasn't for the believable connection between Thornton and the lead kid, the film wouldn't have much else going for it. Thankfully, both Thornton and the boy are great in their respective roles, even more so the kid, played by Brett Kelly, who is about as sweet, na´ve and all-around innocent a kid as you can get and really had me rooting for him all the way. He's also very cute and plays the perfect patsy to Thornton's many crude outbursts. I was surprised that the film wasn't richer in character though, especially since it's director Terry Zwigoff's follow-up to the brilliant GHOST WORLD and involved the Coen brothers, but I guess everyone has their off days. Overall though, I really enjoyed the film's many rude quips and nasty behavior, absolutely adored the lead character's disdain and hatred of all things jolly and Christmas, as well as the side-kid's sweet innocence. If you hated ELF, you'll love BAD SANTA!!
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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